Our calendars, ourselves 

Reprinted from the Oraynu Congregation newsletter:
How many times a day do you look in your calendar? Whether you use an online or paper version, my guess is that you check what’s happening with your day, week, month and year fairly frequently. I know some families who have colour-coded calendars and perform sync operations to make their calendars cohere that require a level of technical expertise and security clearance well above my pay-grade.

My own calendar is feeling very full these days. We’ve had a very busy spring at Oraynu and life with my family keeps me busy too. I am sure many of you can relate. A pretty big shift in my thinking I’ve been working on is rather than saying that I’m “busy,” I say that my life is very “full.” I am grateful to have a great family, great friends, and great work to keep my calendar so full. So I might as well enjoy the fullness rather than focus on the busy-ness. Perhaps that’s a shift you might find helpful too.

Spring/summer is the time we at Oraynu plan our upcoming year, so I’ve been working on our collective calendar too; it too is full! We have much to do and much to be grateful for! The Jewish year begins each September, coinciding with the new school year for parents, teachers, and kids. Thus, summer marks the ending to a year, a time to slow down and reflect. One of the things I love about Jewish life is how our calendar helps us regulate our moods, our lives. The final month of the year, usually coinciding with August/September, is called Elul. Elul is an important month, for it is meant to be set aside for study and personal reflection. The idea is that you take time to process the previous year before heading into the next one. This works well for many of us, as we take some personal time this summer. Whether you are sitting on a dock, exploring the woods, hanging out on patios, or going for country drives, I hope that you do make time to slow down and enjoy. This is the time of year when the calendar can be a little less full. This is true at Oraynu, often, as we slow down over the summer. However, this year I think you’ll find our summer programming to be fuller and, I hope, more uplifting. We hope you’ll find time for us in your summer calendar.

Next year you can expect a few changes, as well as the same type of great programming you’ve come to expect. Our Tikkun Olam Oraynu committee has a full roster of volunteer opportunities and social justice events. One of the new additions, is some intra-Oraynu tikkun olam work, as we explore topics in justice for our contemporary world. Look for programs like: do Jews have white privilege?; cultural appropriation and Indigenous/Black art; and, a discussion on issues in gender/sex, including the “pronoun wars.” The goal is that we explore these issues together as a community, hear each other out, and see if there are new directions we can learn and grow. I’m committed to being as conscious and just as possible, and I know you are with me. This will be a chance for us to put our values into action both internally as a community, and then use them externally as we come together to make a difference for others.

For me, the whole of next year’s programming schedule has been floating around my head. It has given me a chance to pause, reflect, and realize something about who we are as a community: we are more than a series of events and programs. We are greater than the sum of the parts of each speaker, film, holiday celebration, and music night. We are a community that comes together around our common identities and interests, each individual sustaining that community and being sustained by it. We hope to see lots of you in the coming months and in the coming year. If you can’t make it out, know that you are still a very important member of this thriving community, and we value that you are part of us.
What I am saying is this: our lives are consumed by what’s on the calendar. It’s easy to just go through the motions and forget to be present. What we choose to diarize on the calendar says something about our choices, our values, and our priorities. Whatever fills our days and weeks and months reflects us, but it doesn’t define us. We are in charge of charting our own course, our own destinies. We are more than what’s on the calendar.
This summer, and this upcoming year, perhaps spend some conscious time with your calendar. Decide where you want to schedule some time for fun, some time for reflection, some time for learning, some time for nature, some time for play. Perhaps remember Oraynu in your planning. And perhaps determine that this summer, this year, will be the time that you commit to doing whatever it is that you’re doing, whatever is on the calendar, with presence, focus, and joy. Strong individuals, building a strong community, and enjoying the fullness of life